Monday, June 29, 2009

It's Been a Wild Weekend!

It's been a wild weekend... but a good one! My mother-in-law was awakened about 3:00 a.m. Saturday by a wild noise. It was coming from her air conditioner. She later duplicated it for me, and all I can say is it sounded like the tornado siren was going off in town - SCARY! So she jumped up and tried to determine the source of the noise... then turned off her AC. (Repair is scheduled for today.) Since the temperature on Saturday reached 102 or better, her house heated quickly! She laid on her couch and watched a movie and tried not to stir too much, but Greg had told her, "If you are not at our house by mid-afternoon, I'm coming after you!" I think she arrived about 4:30 p.m., when her movie ended. We had dinner and watched some television, and I checked Facebook. There was a post from a woman who lives one block from my grandmother - the power was out.

So I called Mam-ma - no answer, and no answering machine. I called her friend Ruby, and Mam-ma answered the phone! She played "Chicken Foot" (dominoes) at Ruby's Saturday afternoon with her friends, and when she was driven home, her garage door opener would not work. A neighbor shouted to her that the power was off. She didn't have a purse or her house keys, so she returned to Ruby's. I determined that she didn't have her medications, so my mother-in-law and I went to get Mam-ma and unlock her house so she could gather pj's and her meds.

We gathered everything, and while there, I discovered Mam-ma had NOT locked her house up completely, even though she insisted that she had locked everything. I told her that is the last time I believe her! I "battened down the hatches" and returned her to Ruby's house. We made a quick stop at my mother-in-law's for Sunday shoes, and her house was STIFLING inside! I couldn't believe how it had heated up... but that goes to show how hot the day got!

Back at home, we watched another TV program with Greg, and around 9:15, my grandmother called - her power was back on, and she was at home! Sunday was Greg's mother's 83rd birthday. We went to church and then out to lunch with our friends. Then we came home to read the paper and rest. There were phone calls for Greg's mother, and a visit from his brother and our great-niece and nephew, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Last night we watched an old Alfred Hitchcock movie, "The Trouble With Harry." It was a good one! Today we will hopefully get the AC repaired at Greg's mother's house - we have loved having her here, but we know she is anxious to get home. It's cooler here today, and maybe the week will be uneventful... hey, a girl can hope!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Not Everyone Can Work On Their Own Dentures!

Thursday was a fairly uneventful “errand day.” Mam-ma was dragging… she didn’t have any energy, and she didn’t look well when I got there. Usually she doesn’t even look like she needs to have her hair done, but this week, she had slicked it down and it looked BAD. She was complaining of being tired and “feeling bad all over.” I quizzed her – did her head hurt? did she have a stomach ache? was her throat sore? No, no, and no… none of the above… but she “felt bad all over” nonetheless.

Finally when we got back home, I suggested maybe it was the heat. She insisted that her thermostat was fine on 78 degrees and did NOT need to be lowered! Then she said she had not slept well and had even gotten back up to take Tylenol and an Ativan. She said once she went to sleep afterward, she slept GREAT! I suggested maybe she had a “hangover” from the medication, and she said, “Well maybe that’s it!” I told her she should take a good nap and rest and see if the next day wasn’t better.

Friday, she called and sounded 1000% stronger and more energetic. She mentioned that she needed a new telephone book. Ever since we moved her telephone to the nursing home when she was there in 2003, the phone company has listed her address in the directory as the nursing home’s street address. She has mentioned it once before, or I would never have realized, and I debated whether to call the phone company or not. Mam-ma got someone else's extra phone book, so that solved her telephone directory dilemma. And the last time we changed something with the phone company, they disconnected her phone for several days. It’s sorta like calling the “black hole” to call the phone company about your account, so I hesitate to do it.

So today, I took her an extra phone book that I had. I had been out EARLY to some garage sales and stopped by her house at 7:30 a.m. She was up and had just eaten her breakfast, but her house was all dark yet, with curtains drawn and every door shut and locked. She said she was going to walk later in the morning. We are in the middle of a heat wave, and even at 7:30 a.m., the air in the shade was stifling! I told her, “If you are going to walk, do it now before it gets any hotter, while you can still get your breath.” She agreed and began getting ready to walk.

I asked if her teeth were feeling better since our trip to the dentist for new denture liners, and she said, “NO! I’ve got to go back! He [our beloved Dr. Eades] said I might have to, and they are too long… they are rubbing my gums.” I told her to let me know what day she could see him, but not to schedule anything for Thursday because “my calendar is full already.” She asked, “Oh… are you not gonna be able to take me to the beauty shop?” “Yes,” I replied… “YOU are part of that calendar!” She laughed, and said, “Well I guess it will be Tuesday.” I asked why she thought that, and she said, “Well I called yesterday, and they weren’t there.” (HELLO! We went through this LAST Friday!) I reminded her, “No… remember… they don’t work on Fridays!” “Well, that’s right!” she exclaimed. She added, “I can’t call them again until Monday.” “So you are assuming you might get an appointment on Tuesday?” I asked. She said yes… and added, “I’ve worked on them already… I cut a whole piece off, and they are better.” This is not the first time she has worked on her own dentures! I would attribute this to her work as a chairside assistant for another local dentist for 18 years - she literally "cooked teeth" on her stove at home in the evenings - helping the dentist make his patients' dentures. But knowing Mam-ma, she would whittle on them even IF she didn't know how to make a set of dentures from scratch!

I suggested that maybe her work would do the trick and the dentures would settle down over the weekend, and she said, “Well… maybe… but I don’t think so!” I told her to just let me know what she determined on Monday! I knew there was a reason I didn’t read that last magazine when we were there Wednesday!

As I left to go to more sales and Mam-ma to walk around the block, she said, “Wait just a minute… let me get a jacket.” It was already nearing 90 degrees outside. I said, “Mam-ma… the last thing you will need is a jacket!” She said, “Well I don’t walk very fast.” I told her… “You will break a sweat standing still today!” When we got on her driveway, she agreed that she didn’t need a jacket. As I pulled out of her driveway and started down the street, I watched her in my rear-view mirror. She was pushing her walker in the opposite direction. Her neighbors were having a garage sale… that may be as far as she got!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New "Teeth" and a Hair Permanent...

Friday, I was eating a sandwich about 12:45 and the phone rang - it was my grandmother. When I answered, she said, "Can you take me to the dentist if I can get in? My teeth are killing me." I told her I guessed I could, but I didn't think the dentist worked on Friday. "Well I'll find out!" she said promptly. I told her IF the dentist was working and could see her, then yes, I would make arrangements to take her.

A few minutes later, she called again - "Either he's not there or he's not answering." I told her I felt sure he was not there. "You'll just have to try on Monday," I told her. She said, "Well, your mother and Lee are coming home this weekend,and they are supposed to take me to lunch on Sunday, and I can hardly chew." My grandmother has dentures, and at age 96 (and a HALF, as she immediately adds), her jaw bones are wearing so that the dentures keep loosening and wearing blisters on her gums. The dentist has had to re-line the dentures several times already. The last time this happened, she did a little "surgery" on the dentures herself and cancelled an appointment she had made to have them fixed.

On Sunday, my mother and her husband did indeed take Mam-ma to lunch after church. That evening she called me to see what I knew about my niece, who had not been feeling well. She said her teeth still hurt and she still wanted to try to see the dentist. She said, "if he's a workin' tomorrow." I told her I felt sure he would be working on Monday, but after being off Friday, he might be swamped, so don't expect to get right in. Then she went into her little dance about the money and how she really couldn't afford a new liner for her teeth, and also she needs a new permanent. Honestly, I thought she got one back in February, but she insists it was April and that it hasn't lasted. Doesn't matter, as I told her - if she needs another, she just does... and she can afford it - make the appointment! She said, "Well I just hate for you to have to do these things," and I told her, "If you will make appointments and let me know, it's no problem to work it into my schedule. When you call and say we need to be somewhere in 30 minutes, sometimes THAT's a problem!" So I told her to go to bed and get a good night's rest and call the dentist and the hairdresser the next morning to get on their calendars, and to let me know what she worked out!

Monday morning, I noticed it was almost 11:00, and I had not heard from Mam-ma. So I tried to call her. No answer. I tried several times, and around 12:30, she answered. I asked what she was doing, and she said, rather pitifully, "Well I was a tryin' to eat some lunch." I said, "I've been trying to call you." She replied, "Well, me and Ruby went to Alp's (a local discount grocery) to get corn. They got in some real good corn this morning, and we both got some." I asked about her teeth,and she said, "I haven't even called yet." I told her I really needed her to get an appointment - and to call about her hair, too, so that I could plan my week. She agreed to call right away. Meanwhile, I'm thinking that she felt well enough to buy fresh CORN, so how bad can her teeth be?

In a few minutes, she called back and said, "Do you want to go at 8:00 in the mornin'?" "Is that when your appointment is?" I asked. "Well, yes, she said that was all they had." "Then I guess we are going at 8:00," I told her... "is that tomorrow morning?" "No," she answered, "it's Wednesday morning." I told her that was fine and asked about her hair. As it happens, her hairdresser doesn't work on Mondays, so she said she would call again on Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon, I was outside watering plants, and when I came in, I heard Mam-ma leaving a telephone message, "The hairdresser isn't sure if my hair is long enough yet for a permanent, so we will just have to see on Thursday - if it is, we'll do it, and if not, we'll have to wait." Now, that means her appointment MAY take two hours, and it MAY take one hour. It would have made sense to say, "I'll just wait another week and be sure," but of course, that would have made too much sense. So I told Mam-ma, I guess I will just plan on two hours, knowing it might only be one. Her response? "That's just all we can do."

Today, I hurried through my morning routine and pulled into my grandmother's driveway at 7:50 for the 5-minute drive to the dentist's. The first thing I saw was her walker on the driveway. She was puttering around in her garage. She announced, "I'd rather still be in bed." That was my thought exactly, but I didn't voice it! Her new liner took about an hour, and bless our dear Dr. Eades' heart, he would not charge her for it. He charged her for a mouth rinse, but the liner was done because, as his nurse put it, "he wants to take care of her." He is one in a million, and he truly does love Mam-ma... and I am grateful for that!

Mam-ma said that the dentist mentioned she had not been there in awhile (bet she didn't tell him she'd done surgery on his last liner herself!). She said, "He told me he wants to see me more often - ever once in awhile - to check on these teeth!" We'll see how that goes! At least he has GREAT magazines in his waiting area!

Meanwhile, Mom told me that my grandmother's friends - the ones who brought her about 150 pounds (NOT an exaggeration!) of sweet potatoes last fall - brought her a half bushel of fresh squash in the last few days! What do they think a 96.5-year-old woman will do with that much squash?! Anyway, Mam-ma sent home an ear of corn for my husband - she had shucked and cleaned it all - probably a dozen or so ears... and today she was going to cut it off the cob and put it in the freezer. She will can or freeze something until she draws her last breath!

Tomorrow we will go see if her hair is long enough for that permanent! Stay tuned....

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Footloose and Fancy Free" - Compassion vs. Arguing

I told a friend of mine that God has really been dealing with me lately. I've been writing a series of daily devotionals on compassion - and how we Christians are called to be more compassionate, even when it doesn't feel good! I had been mulling over some thoughts about how to be more compassionate toward my grandmother - maybe spend more time with her... and certainly try to be more patient.

So it was that yesterday I went to her house yesterday to pick her up for her beauty shop appointment. I arrived early, so that I could dispense her medication into the daily pill boxes that would supply her for the next two weeks. She sat at the kitchen table with me as I did this. I do have to concentrate on what I am doing as I dole out the pills, but I asked about her neighbor, Earl, who went out of town and fell ill while away. Mam-ma has been collecting his newspapers and his mail each day. For the record, a friend of her neighbor's, who happened to be some sort of caretaker for his dog, went to Ft. Smith, Arkansas, a few weeks ago... I thought to visit some family members. She took Earl's truck on this four-hour drive. Next thing my grandmother knew, Earl had driven his car to Ft. Smith. He got sick there and had to be hospitalized for several days. Since his release, he has been staying in a motel room - under oxygen. He will have to be on oxygen when he returns home, and he has even called my grandmother to see if the medical supply place has been by to deliver any. Of course, as she told him, this probably won't happen before he returns home. The last time that I knew of that he phoned her, he said he would be home June 14th.

So I asked..."Have you heard from Earl again?"
Mam-ma: "Honey... Earl got MARRIED!"
Me: "Really? To the woman he followed to Ft. Smith?"
Mam-ma:"No, he didn't follow her there." (Let's see, she drove his truck to Ft. Smith, and he got in his car afterward and ended up in Ft. Smith.)
Me: "Didn't he go to Ft. Smith because she was there?"
Mam-ma: "Yes. He did go to Ft. Smith where she was, but he didn't follow her there.
Me: "Okay... well... are they coming back here?"
Mam-ma: "I reckon."
Me: "So she doesn't live in Ft. Smith - she just went to visit family there?"
Mam-ma: "No, she went to see about her sister, who was sick." (Okay, so sisters are no longer family?)
Me: "But she doesn't plan to STAY in Ft. Smith, right?"
Mam-ma: "No, she just went to see about her sister." (who apparently is NOT family!)

Me: "And she and Earl got married while he's been there?"
Mam-ma: "Yes."
I returned to my medicine and let the conversation drop.

I deposited Mam-ma at the beauty shop and headed on to handle a couple of errands and then to Wal-Mart for her groceries. It was a hot afternoon - nearly 90 degrees, and humid. When I got back to the beauty shop, the hairdresser was running behind, so I toted in a sack of cold groceries - milk, bacon, eggs - and sat downon a bench to wait. The hairdressers and another customer struck up a conversation with me about food and food allergies. Meanwhile, the hairdresser finished Mam-ma's "do," and Mam-ma paid her. She grabbed her walker, and headed for the door. One of the ladies was still telling me something. I said, "Mam-ma, wait!" She never even broke stride. She opened the door and headed for the car, which was locked. I finally apologized to the hairdresser and hurried to run past Mam-ma and get the door open. This is not the first time this has happened, by any means.

I got in the car, and I asked, "Are you in a hurry to get home?" Mam-ma looked up at me and shrugged her shoulders and grinned and said, "No... I'm footloose and fancy free!" as if to ask, "Where would you like to take me?!" I added, "I just wondered, because you headed for the car like a lightning bolt." She said, "Well..." and changed the subject quickly. If the conversation doesn't revolve around her - or interest her - she just walks away. She has left her hairdresser standing in the middle of the salon floor talking about her grandson and totally walked right out the door. Mam-ma pays this hairdresser $13 a week (including tip) for a shampoo and set... and this woman is rearing her 3-year-old grandson. The least she could do, if she is so "footloose and fancy free," is sto stand still or take a seat for 5 minutes and hear the woman's story.

We got home, and I put away Mam-ma's groceries. I visited her restroom, and when I came back into the living room, she was waiting for me, with a boxed light bulb in her hand. It was a 3-way light bulb I had purchased the week before. "You need to take this back and exchange it... it's not the right size." I told her it was the only 3-way light bulb I saw, and she said, "Well, it's not the right size." I told her I had JUST come from Wal-Mart... I sure wish I had known about this, and she said, "Well, I know - I just thought of it." I told her I wasn't sure I still had a receipt, but I would look. I checked her lamp, and sure enough, the maximum allowed wattage is 150. I got a 50/200/250 watt bulb. She said, "You don't need a receipt - just tell 'em you want to make an even exchange." I explained to her with a laugh that "they might take me for a crook." She looked at me like I was from Mars. I told her that anyone could go pick a light bulb off the shelf and walk to the service desk and say they bought the wrong size. Without a receipt to prove it, the associates had no way of knowing if I bought the bulb or not. I don't think she bought it.

By this time, Mam-ma had sat down on her couch, and I know she was thinking I would sit down for awhile, too... and I probably would have. But I realized that this was how it was going to go... everything I said was going to incite an argument... because everything I say irritates her in some way. It just is what it is. I didn't want to consider that yesterday could have been our last day together, and we spent it arguing. So rather than allow it to escalate, I made my excuses and left.

Today I wrote a devotional about emulating Jesus and showing compassion when none was shown to us... offering kindness even when we are treated unkindly. And I do try to be kind and respectful. "Errand day" is not always the only day of the week I see my grandmother or talk to her. I just took her to a baby shower for my cousin a few days earlier. The only way I know to avoid confrontation is to limit opportunities for them to occur. I don't like this, but I honestly don't see another way. My friend suggested I find another "non-errand" day to spend some time with Mam-ma. But if she argues and gets upset over the semantics of her neighbor "following" his new wife to visit her non-family sister, we can argue about virtually anything.

I have come to the conclusion that I am not the person to visit with Mam-ma. I am the person to drive her to her appointments, manage her finances, pay her bills, keep her in Medicare Part D Prescription Drug coverage, take her extra chicken stew and new pictures of the baby, remind her to send birthday cards, and "put out fires" when she has a crisis. Her aides and nurses have their roles, and she has friends, church members, and other family members who can visit with her without a confrontation. And I am okay with this. This strategy allows me to be compassionate and "bite my tongue" each Thursday and the times in between - and return the light bulbs, bras, panties, and other things that don't "do to suit." It preserves many of my memories of Mam-ma and keeps bitterness at bay. There may be a better way, but I haven't found it. Meanwhile, I'm doing the best I can to have sufficient mental and physical energy - and compassion - for my grandmother... and to still have something left for myself and others.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can!

My friend Melisa has three boys who are musically talented. Well-meaning adults are always suggesting they sing this song or that - or that they go here or there to perform in all sorts of venues, from church suppers to senior citizens centers and more. When their guitar coach hears of these "gigs," he gets out his imaginary guns and starts "shooting" at the floor toward their feet, as in "let's see how fast you can dance!"

Today was just such a day for me. I was showered and almost dressed to go get my grandmother for her 1:30 p.m. beauty shop appointment. Around 12:15, the phone rings, and my grandmother says, "I can't go to the beauty shop today." "Okay... are you sick?" "No," she says, "Pat (the hairdresser) called, and there's a water line break, and she doesn't have any water at the shop." I told her that was too bad, and she added, "...tomorrow at 3:30." "Your appointment is rescheduled for tomorrow at 3:30?" "Yes," she tells me. I mulled that a couple of seconds and said, "Well, I think I can make that work." (Not that she had asked!) She answered, "Well, if you can't, that'll be okay..." (her voice trailing off here) "No," I told her, "I can make that work... it will be fine." I asked if she needed groceries before then, and she said no, she was out of milk but could manage until tomorrow.

I changed my clothes, informed my husband I was NOT going anywhere today, and began to think about what project to start next - maybe ironing? The phone rings, and it's my grandmother again. "Pat called back... the Water Department is working to piece a line together for her, and she said to come on." "So you want to go today?" "Yes." So I put changed BACK into my nicer clothes, told my husband of the plan change, and gathered my things to go to town.

I honestly didn't mind - and I was dressed and ready (well, twice) - but it was amazing how much could transpire in the course of about 15 minutes... and how it didn't seem to register with my grandmother that these changes were any big deal. And I know it made things easier for the hairdresser to be able to continue her day, but a lot of her little ladies rely on someone else to get them to her shop and home... and changing plans midstream affects MANY people! So today, I felt like somebody had a gun shooting at my feet, saying, "Let's see how fast YOU can dance!" At least I knew Mam-ma wouldn't beat me back to Wal-Mart today... 1) I didn't return, and 2) her friend Ruby (who does the driving) is under the weather.

Mam-ma's grocery list today: 1 quart of whole milk, vanilla ice cream, 1 can of sauerkraut, a head of cabbage, a 3-way light bulb, and a box of GAIN detergent. I didn't ask what she is cooking - I don't think I have EVER bought her kraut, although she always canned her own and kept dozens of jars of kraut in her root cellar when I was a child. She sent home 1/4 of a chocolate pie for my husband... it looks delicious. (I'm allergic to chocolate!) She was very upset with a "silly rabbit" who has eaten all but one of her green bean vines down to almost the ground. If she gets half a chance, he may be the feature of a stew with kraut!